River Drivers – Big Oak Road

photo by Ron Donocoff

It is fair to say that at The RR our knowledge, awareness, and subsequently appetite for folk music is on the side of limited compared to other flavours of temptation. Even so a regular courting of folk punk offerings leads to moments more established in the traditional breeding of the genre which have from time to time sparked our pleasure and attention, the debut album from River Drivers now one such occasion.

Big Oak Road offers up ten songs which grab ears and imagination alike with their stories; tracks bearing tales of people and suffering so often borne from the affluence and powerful which prosper from and cause their struggles and hardship. They are accounts wrapped in sounds which proved just as captivating, Celtic, Americana, and Appalachian influences sparking the Philadelphia band’s own individual ideation and passion within a record which works and tempts on many levels and one which only nurtured the want to know more about band, folk music, and the background to the chronicles of life and history within it.

River Drivers is the creation of Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass) with Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle) completing the quartet. We mentioned the flavours embraced in the band’s sound but equally there is a rawness in sound and emotion which has a punk breeding, no doubt a hue feeding on the years McCloskey was part of hardcore punk band Wrong Answer. It all adds up to a richly alluring persuasion within Big Oak Road and its mix of original and more obscure folk songs, and immediately within opener Children’s March (Mother Jones). It is a track which carries an infectious swing from its first breath, melodies coaxing swift engagement as McCloskey’s earthier tones draw the drama of the true U.S. Irish history plucked story inciting the imagination of song and listener alike.

It is a great rousing start to the release quickly matched in strength and captivation by the similarly lively and catchy Going Once. It too is a song inspired by a true story, that of a mother‘s plight finding a new home for her nine kids after their Torresdale farm is sold at auction for back taxes. The woman was Murray’s grandmother and brought to life magnetically by the vocalist’s emotive tones before a just as thick emotional intensity lines the voice of McCloskey within Crooked Jack, a cover of a song written by Irish singer songwriter/novelist/playwright Dominic Behan. As in its predecessors, the strings of the band’s instruments cradle and cast tempting shadows thick with warmth and melancholy; a craft heavy combination almost as romantic as it is dramatic and provocative and just as potent within the following Sí, Se Puede, another song drawing a picture of the hardship and exploitation of hard working men.

Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin) revels in its Irish breeding next, a Pogue-esque croon shaping its take on The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem classic. It is one of those songs which instinctively gets under the skin, a temptation relishing the enterprise of Moran’s whistle embracing breath, as too proves the album’s title track which is next up. This time the fiddle of Ratini primarily flirts with ears as it dances with the spirit and the other equally enthused textures making up the highly enjoyable song.

Through the great thick drama in sound and word of Cumann na mBan, the track proving another major favourite within the album, and the poetic rendition of traditional song, Moonshiner, greater attention was easily sparked by the band while the Tim Stafford written Union Man simply epitomised the strength of the release to pleasure, spark participation, and inspire an appetite to explore the origins of its story.

Big Oak Road concludes with Farewell Johnny Miner, just one more captivating slice of historically and intimately inspired folk written by Ed Pickford and invigorated by River Drivers, the band embracing its British heart.

The music world is so vast and rich that it is impossible to explore every plateau within its glorious landscape but we have definitely missed out not venturing into folk deeper and more often but grateful for having the rather excellent River Drivers and their similarly thrilling Big Oak Road as a new incitement.

Big Oak Road is released October 18th with pre-ordering available @

https://theriverdrivers.com/   https://www.facebook.com/theriverdrivers   https://twitter.com/theriverdrivers

Pete RingMaster 03/10/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Torous – Mindfield

After checking out and enjoying their recent singles, it was hard not to feel real intrigue for the debut album from British metallers Torous. Those previous songs were a potent introduction for us to the band’s fusion of Celtic/progressive rock with additional and varied alternative bred metal and a potential which alone warrants close and continued attention. Mindfield only confirms and cements their promise while equally pushing and expanding the imagination and adventure found in those songs; showing just why the Birmingham trio is beginning to create a stir.

Since emerging in 2014, Torous has toured the UK numerous times with increasing success and shared stages with the likes of Rival State, Evil Scarecrow, and Diamond Head as well as played major festivals like Hammerfest alongside bands such as with Napalm Death, Alestorm, and Grand Magus. Their first EP, Dried Bones, lured critical and fan praise subsequently matched by that around the Holier Than Thou released singles Colours and I Am.  Out via the same label, Mindfield is sure to take things to another level in acclaim and attention as it does the inventive qualities heard in those previous tracks.

The piped seduction of Sideline brings the album to ears, its brief instrumental caress courted by darker shadows before Frontline erupts from its alluring charms. Instantly riffs and rhythms crowd the senses but with a certain restraint as the distinct vocals of guitarist Marc Malone join the potent mix. With the bass of GMT a steely enticement alongside the senses clipping beats of Tom Fenn, the track prowls as it courts ears and imagination with open enterprise and a rich blend of classic and modern metal hued rock ‘n’ roll with the extra colour of some fine folk inspired melodic endeavour.

Those previously mentioned singles come next, I Am first gripping ears with its slightly predatory and increasingly addictive bait of metal infused drama and rebel-rousing spirit. Stabbing riffs are matched in trespass by the spiky rumble of beats, the bass offering even darker bait as Malone’s vocals holler with melodic suggestion and grace waiting for the moment to strike and turn things on their head. It is a song just as potent and thrilling as first time heard a crowd of listens ago, Colours similarly blossoming again with time as its shamanic air and Celtic lilt swiftly captivates the imagination. The track entices like something akin to the blending of Manegarm and Southern Death Cult, a suggestion may be even more apt for subsequent tracks like Close My Eye, though before it the engaging croon and growing roar of Playing Human has an already happy appetite for the album blissful with its energetically crawling gait and boisterous invention bolstered further by great Skids spiced hooks.

Becoming increasingly feisty, the excellent track is matched in success by Close My Eye, the song a perpetually twisting and compelling escapade, and in turn by the progressive growl of Seven which instrumentally has the imagination flirting with its own evolving landscape to match the mercurial but still relatively stable climate of the suggestively crafted piece.

Shipped Away canters in like a warrior on horseback, rhythms swinging and vocals inciting as the bass nags with its shadowy devilry. Offering arguably the most infectious chorus upon the album, even in its brief state though it emerges through a host of equally catchy stages, the song is a venture through unpredictable moments which do not always work as well as in other time but only fascinates with ears firmly hooked before Nine holds the next moment of keen attention with its folkish hues across imposing textures.

Across its fourteen tracks there is may be surprisingly no weak moments though of course some tracks spark greater reactions than others. As the trio of Shadow Self with its tribal lining to capriciously emotional and physical terrain, the more openly predacious Crow Road, and the melodic web of Feed the Fire show, there might be a varying degree of pleasure found in songs but all ensure varying shades of rich satisfaction flirts with the borders of rapture.

On top of that Mindfield just gets better with every listen, almost intoxicating ears and thoughts as new things are unveiled and propositions like its title track, a beguiling almost demonically alluring persuasion, share adventures which never end with the same character they start with or keep to a path expectations can get a handle on.

Closing track God Game Suicide sums up all the attributes of the Torous sound and album; its Celtic rock adventure aligned to rapacious melodic metal a creative and rousing emprise to find kinship with. Certainly Mindfield is not without imperfections and at times a familiarity to others yet those traits somehow carry their own individuality as the album consistently catches the imagination full on and sees pleasure bubbling with perpetual rigour.

Mindfield is out through Holier Than Thou now; digitally on iTunes and other stores and physically @ http://torous.bigcartel.com/product/mindfield-cd

http://www.torous.co.uk/    https://www.facebook.com/Torousishere    https://twitter.com/Toroustheband

Pete RingMaster 25/05/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Darkest Era – Severance


Taking the inventive promise and striking quality of their acclaimed debut album to another creative level, Northern Ireland band Darkest Era unveil their sophomore release Severance. It is a weighty and potently persuasive encounter sure to replicate and intensify the reception and success of its predecessor, eight tracks which spark the imagination with persistently captivating and distinctive Celtic infused heavy metal. Musically the album has a slightly lighter climate than before but still the emotive fire and melodic passion of the band comes in a fusion with raw textures and imposing intensity. It is a compelling mix which never leaves a minute of sound lacking in punch and inventive voracity.

The seeds of Darkest Era began in 2005 with when teenage school friends, guitarists Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghell. Starting to write together, the pair linked up with vocalist Krum as their songs, taking inspiration from the historical and mythological tales from ancient Ireland, emerged with a Celtic essence. The following year a demo appeared under the name of Nemesis which soon held the attention of the European metal underground. 2007 saw Darkest Era step forward, a change made in relation to the darker presence and voice of their evolving music. Across the next three years, the band released a couple of EPs and played plenty of shows including festivals appearances in Germany, Greece, the UK, and Italy. Debut album The Last Caress Of Light was released in 2011 via Metal Blade Records to strong and eager responses from fans and media alike. The years between releases has seen Darkest Era undertake European and UK tours with bands such as Alestorm, Arkona, and Gloryhammer alongside their own shows and the creation of Severance.

With a line-up completed by bassist Daniel O’Toole and drummer Cameron Åhslund-Glass, the Belfast based quintet recorded their new DarkestEra_coverCruz Del Sur Music released album with producer Chris Fielding. It is a proposition which makes an instant impact as opening track Sorrow’s Boundless Realm seduces ears and senses from its opening caress of guitar as throaty bass bred shadows lurk in the background. It is an intrigue lit coaxing which soon unveils rhythmic sinews and richer sonic colour which only reinforces the initial lure of the song. A rampant urgency is careering through ears from there as the outstanding voice of Krum parades the narrative of the song. Fully expanded, the song is a fiery and caressing mix of energy and enterprise veined by gripping bass and drum intimidation and a sonic weave of seduction from the guitars. It is not a song which startles and has jaws dropping but with every twist and turn of sound and ideation, the track as the album captivates and lights thoughts along with emotions.

There is also an enveloping emotion and drama to every aspect of the song which is swiftly emulated by the following Songs Of Gods And Men. Its entrance also makes a gentle touch but takes less time to open the cage to ravenous riffing and rhythmic stalking. Krum is again masterful as he rides the sonic flames pushing the walls of the song, his voice backed as potently by the rest of the band within the anthemic stride and expressive premise of the encounter. There is a melancholic air to the song, an essence permeating each track in varying degrees, which graces the melodic elegance and grandeur of the song and casts an enthralling hue for the vocals and lyrics to colour their emotions with. It is a vibrant captivation which in its distinct way The Serpent And The Shadow repeats but with a darker and more rapacious presence. There is a deeper snarl to the bass and stronger rigorousness to the riffs setting a coarse and hungry tone to the heart of the song, a predation which intimidates but is a perfect foil and instigator for the dynamic fire of sonic flames and vocal adventure which burn and roar respectively across the song.

The following Beyond The Grey Veil is an evocative ballad with its own specific dark shadows and intimate emotional reflection, a song which croons with vocal majesty and melodic seducing whilst still managing to bring a predacious intent to certainly the breath-taking latter part of its enthralling body. It is fair to say that many of the songs are slow burners in finding their fullest persuasion, this definitely one but it is a song emerging as one of the most impressive and impacting. Its successor Trapped In The Hourglass is another to need more examinations than others and though it fails to live up to the previous track again makes a convincing and enjoyable proposition.

The Scavenger has little difficulty in grabbing attention and appetite, its early grooves leading to an intensive gallop of rhythmic tenacity upon which hooks and melodic enticement catch ears and thoughts at every flexing of the song’s spine and inventive ideation. A blaze of creative fertility and contagious power metal like vivacity, it is a tremendous exploit straight away matched by the equally powerful emprise of A Thousand Screaming Souls. As the song before, the listener feels like a warrior riding on a nostril flaring steed as a spellbinding landscape opens up and engulfs the imagination. The two songs encapsulate everything potent and riveting about Darkest Era and their music, emotionally epic and inventively broad but a companion which is intimate within the larger tales it spawns.

The album closes with the towering and melodically pungent Blood, Sand And Stone, an intensely evocative croon within climactic tempestuous scenery. It is a great conclusion to an impressive and skilfully presented album, a release which reinforces Darkest Era as one of the increasingly potent melodic metal bands in Europe. There is very little if anything to hold up against the undeniably fine album but personally it is honest to say that Severance did not leave passions as excited as hoped and expected. Individually there are songs which ignite a real hunger and as a whole the album is an engrossing and strongly pleasing experience, but somewhere we missed that fuse to the strongest reactions. Most will not have that issue though we suspect so it is very easy to recommend Severance to all.

Severance is available in digital, CD, and Vinyl options via Cruz Del Sur Music now in the US and from June 13th in Europe.



RingMaster 04/06/2014

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Artaius – Fifth Season

Artaius pic

Merging an enterprising and imaginative mix of metal, folk, progressive rock, and various other mischievous flavours, Fifth Season the debut album from Italian band Artaius is a release which dances with the ear and stokes up the passions to the recognition that this band is an awakening force. Across its absorbing length it would be fair to say that the sound is seeded and bred in recognisable organic beds but throughout Artaius involve intriguing and unexpected twists as well as invention to set them apart from most now and as an appetising prospect of the future.

Formed in early 2008, the sextet from Sassuolo have forged an impressive in their homeland with their previous a self-produced EP and live performances which has seen them leave strong impressions alongside the likes of Furor Gallico, Kalevala, and Diabula Rasa. There is a strong Celtic breath to the folk part of their sound whilst progressive whispers call loudly throughout the weave of melodic beauty and muscular energy with metal forged riffs and rhythms adding their rage and driving attack from an opposite extreme. The striking and inspiring vocals of Sara Cucciniello wrap around the senses with warmth and elegance, though equally she can sear and elevate notes with beauty and strength upon the compelling narrative, whilst the phlegm caked growls of guitarist Andrea La Torre bring textured shadows and malevolence to the welcoming landscapes to match the music in merging extremes. His vocals do take time to grow into and at times are a limit too far and detract from the otherwise rich persuasion but never to leave a song or moment distinctly unappealing.

The Moonlight Records released album opens up a brewing emotive ambience as Make the Iguana gentle enters into view. It Artaius-TheFithSeason500_zps1e0739f9initial beckoning an atmosphere mist where from within bold beats from Alessandro Ludwig Agati begin to build a frame for the mesmeric whistle tempting of Mia Spattini to wrap around, both soon joined by the resonating throat of the bass of Enrico Bertoni. Once Cucciniello unveils her vocal beauty the song lifts its head further to stretch melodic smiles and temptation to new heights, though it is when the track fully slips into its eager stride and the guitar of La Torre, as well as his growls add their predatory touch that the full union seduces emotions and limbs. Continually switches its gait from gentle and inviting to charged and infectious whilst the folk and progressive wash led by the excellent and fizzing key sounds of Giovanni Grandi hones all its aural colour into a compelling narrative, the song is an absorbing and deeply pleasing start immediately continued by the next treats.

Gates of Time has sinews stretching and fires blazing from the off, riffs prowling around the ear whilst the low growls of La Torre add their own distinct menace. A magnetic groove spears the challenge, its lure twisting into a niggling yet magnetic hook with the soaring vocals of Cucciniello looking down as they touch the roof of the song and leaving scorch marks on its surface. The track swoops back into the heavy energetic crawl again but then opens up a bloom of expressive melodic revelry which is quite irresistible and has feet shuffling intently along to its call. Continually mixing up its stance and adventure as it brings the harsh and beauty of the scenario into a descriptive sonic tale, the track leaves a smile on the passions before making way for the outstanding Over the Edge to ignite ardour.

This track takes a mere second to pick up the senses and thoughts and expose them to a romp of bold frivolity and passionate merriment, the violin of guest Lucio Stefani taking charge of the virile waltz whilst group shouts and enthusiasm powers alongside the again exceptional voice of Cucciniello. The track has full recruitment of limbs, heart, and lust within mere moments but ignites that to furnace proportions by stepping into a piano sculpted jazz fuelled aside of schizophrenic enterprise. Totally unexpected and wholly devoured with greed by the ear and beyond the song soon drives back into its core attack as if nothing happened, before again flirting with the bedlamic fascination for a more intensive devilment. The track is quite brilliant and you can only wish other songs had taken their bravery of adventure as far to turn the album into a real classic.

The progressive tempest of Horizon keeps things burning brightly though the vocals of La Torre arguably have one of their less inspiring moments compensated by the keys and dramatically confrontational riffs whilst both Stairway’s End and the hungry Prophecy offer more variation and satisfaction, even if without lighting the depth of fires as their predecessors. The second part of the album does slip from the plateau earlier founded but equally there is never a moment through the likes of La Vergine e il Lupo, Wind of Quest, and Wind of Wisdom that the temptation waivers and in songs like Wind of Revenge further blazes of drama coated magnificence erupt, the song complete with a virulently addictive groove and melodic toxicity an uncompromising yet rapacious slice of folk metal.

      Fifth Season is a strongly pleasing album which has moments of insatiable splendour leaving its recipient breathless. Artaius have delivered an impressive debut album which only makes you think the band will go on to greater and more startling things, and stake a claim as one of the more imaginative and exciting bands in the genre.



RingMaster 07/06/2013

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Krampus: Survival of the Fittest

2011 was the year Italian folk metalers Krampus announced their presence with two impressive and promising EPs, this year they have set themselves at the fore of the genre with their debut album Survival of the Fittest. Eight strong, the band has built on their early promise with a release which is refreshing and vibrant whilst being unafraid to be adventurous and eclectic without pushing itself outside the set walls of folk metal. It is a powerful and thoughtful album which growls like a bear at times and in others serenades like a burning sunset for a varied and absorbing adventure.

As mentioned the 2009 formed band first drew attention with the release of their debut EP Shadows of Our Times in March of last year. Alongside their shows it drew a strong view in their direction, but it was with the following Kronos’ Heritage EP that summer that the band really ignited the imagination and acclaim for their creative invention. With major festival appearances also under their belt this looks like the moment things truly accelerate for Krampus.

The album follows on from the earlier releases with the octet expanding and exploring their aggressive and melodic sound. The use of traditional instruments like flutes, whistles, violins, and the Irish Bouzouki is mesmeric whilst the driving powerful riffs and combative intensity enflames the appetite giving extra thrust to the forceful themes of humanity and social issues within the modern world. The opening Arise (The Day Of Reckoning) brings a gentle and shimmering intro to proceedings which builds with a fanfare of energy to annouce the first full track Beast Within. It starts off with a raucous eagerness and electro rampancy before lighting the sesnses with its folk weaponry. The vocals of frontman Filippo are grizzled and venomous, offering a riled spite across the near brutal assault. The melodic invention though tempers things to make for a bruising and compelling feast for the ear which is unsettling yet full of heated infection.

The following Unspoken continues the elevated energies whilst sending one onto the wrong foot initially with impressive but unexpected clean vocals from Filippo. This adds a surprising and different aspect to the sound and continues the Krampus skill of standing aside of most other bands without diminishing their core intent. Once the vocal mix of harsh and smooth settle within the ear it is an appealing and thrilling addition across the album.

Tracks like Rebirth with its Celtic breath and the frenetic Aftermath grab the senses for a full and enthused feast of melodic invention within a powerful intrusion. To be honest the songs and their structures are not experimental or remarkably different from othe bands, the likes of Korpiklaani and Amorphis to name two similarly armed, but there is something different and engaging to Krampus which is almost indefineable but certainly enchants and stirs the spirit more. The guitars rage with every atom they can muster whilst the keys consume and stimulate the senses with an irresistible and heated embrace. Combined with the insatiable rhythms and magnetic violin, whistles, and flutes etc, it only ignites the strongest fires.

The highlight of the album comes with The Dance Of Lies, a track which flirts wantonly with the ear whilst bullying the senses with spiteful bass lines and badgering rhythms. The heart of the song is melodic though and offers a feast of cute and inspired colourful flourishing sounds which only leave warmth and addition in their wake.

With furthersongs like Shadows Of Our Time and Tears Of Stone continuing to bring the fullest pleasure, the album is a dynamic slab of folk metal brought with imagination and invention. Krampus still feel like a band evolving which only inspires an even greater anticipation ahead for what the Italians will unleash, but right now Survival of the Fittest is a release bringing the beginning  of another dimension to folk metal.


RingMaster 27/08/2012

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Waylander: Kindred Spirits

A band strong in stature within pagan metal and even more powerful in sound, Irish Celtic black metal tribe Waylander have released their fourth album to show that even after near twenty years they still prowl at the fore of the genre. Kindred Spirits is a vibrant and rippling beast of a release which is true to form for the band. One can argue that the album has nothing particularly new to offer nor is trying to explore or push the boundaries of the sextet but with a strength and compulsive air as deep as the Celtic mythology inspiration, it is a release which more than makes the time in its company rewarding.

The album is the second from Waylander via Listenable Records and follows up Honour Amongst Chaos of 2008. Since forming in 1993 the band from Armagh has drawn the fullest of acclaim and followings, their first demos Once Upon An Era in 1995 and Dawning Of A New Age the following year, leading to some announcing them as being one of the forefathers of the Pagan/Folk/Celtic Metal scene. Their first two albums Reawakening Pride Once Lost and The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot, 1998 and 2001 respectively as well as their live performances, increased their stock and standing. The line-up changed over that time but was stabilised and at full force by the third album, whilst the release of Kindred Spirits shows the band still hold a place at the fore of the genre with its bulging muscles and exquisite melodic touches.

The album opens on a real high with the surging and pulsating twin attack of Echoes of the Sidhe and Lámh Dearg, two songs which rile up the senses into a feisty eager state. The first is a song rampant with air flailing energies from first note to last. Riffs barge through the ear with crisp and heavy intent whilst rhythms barrack with a ravenous keenness to leave one excited for the melodic caresses from the tin whistle of Dave Briggs, his mesmeric skill taking one into a warm absorbing world. The song does not attempt to explore new ventures but simply brings the most riotous and pleasing sounds with an accomplished skill highlighted by the thrilling heavy metal guitar play.

Whereas the opener looks at the enduring beliefs in old Gods and the higher plains of existence things find a fuller heat and intensity with Lámh Dearg, a song about the conflict in Northern Ireland with its title meaning Red Hand, the symbol of the northern province of Ulster. The track is harder with an explosive edge compared to its predecessor though the melodic charm still permeates the raging riffs and powerful theme. The vocals of Ciaran ‘ArdChieftain’ O’Hagan as always growl and bruise the sounds but here have an even more intense breath to their dark presence whist the drums and bass of Den Ferran and Michael Proctor make for a towering spine to what is a great track.

Through tracks like Twin Fires of Beltíne with its near concussive attack, the stormy atmospheric Of Fear and Fury, and the raging Quest For Immortality, the band take chunks out of the senses with skilled enterprise and unbridled aggression, the last of this trio a vibrant blend of hungry energies and shifting imagination. As mentioned the album does not really give anything new to play with but simply offers well groomed yet riotous ideas and sounds brought with the strongest passion and craft.

Just as it started, Kindred Spirits ends with two impressive tracks. The first Erdath starts with a resourceful melodic weave for the ear before exploding into a swarming corruptive maelstrom of aggression and aural spite. The song is insatiable, ravaging the ear with corruptive riffs and venomous melodic invention. The track twists and turns through unpredictable and fully intriguing avenues to emerge as the one track where the band risks trying new departures and results in it being the best on the album.

The title track closes things up and though it returns to the established well of the band without any experimentation or further true adventure involved it is still a track which hits the sweet spot through the combative rhythms, inciteful guitar invention, and melodic whispering within the heavy and intense sound.

With Kindred Spirits and its bounty, Waylander show they are still more than capable of creating music to inspire and satisfy, just without the strong element of danger the genre needs.

RingMaster 20/08/2012

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